Episode 99: A Clean Slate for 2017

To everyone who has followed Unlimited Grub Grabs through the years, thank you.

Three weeks have passed since we welcomed the New Year, but while everyone’s done with their resolutions, checklists, and diet plans, I’m still waving around a clean, blank slate. That’s how I intend to start 2017: with a clean slate.

Currently I’m on exile, unemployed and striving to work freelance. At the same time, I‘m catching up on a lot of reading, watching drama series, errands, and self-studying, followed by cooking and sleeping.

I stopped going out on food trips and sightseeing walks. My budget only covers bills and groceries, and if I do so much as have a sip of beer, I’ll suffer gout flare-ups again. Meanwhile, my career as a crime author slowed down. I lost the time and energy to write and I never got to promote my books properly (I thought it no longer mattered since nobody’s reading them anyway).

On top of all that, my motivation and self-respect were in the dumps. I’ve been insomniac and frequently hungry and thirsty. When I fall asleep, I sleep for long hours. Most of the time, I’m lethargic. There are moments when I imagine jumping from my window at the fifth floor. And yeah, I wallow in moments of self-depreciation. I won’t be surprised if I get diagnosed as undergoing depression.

But I promised myself that’s about to change this 2017. This year is meant for new beginnings, going back to zero, starting over from scratch.

I still have my knowledge base. I still have my health. I still maintain a blog. I still have my social media accounts. I still have writing opportunities to explore. I still have ideas and stories. I still have restaurants to visit. Most of all, I have people who support me from afar, who have faith in me and my resolution to rise from my travails. I don’t see them, but I know they’re there.

I know Unlimited Grub Grabs isn’t popular, and my writing isn’t influential. I’m probably not the best role model for writers. But despite my flaws and insecurities, I know you’ve patiently watched over me, and cheered me in my endeavors. I know I’ve imparted as many lessons, thoughts, and experiences as I can through my stories. I know you’re watching me grow.

I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed with so much, and as gratitude, I will make use of my abilities to begin anew. For staying with me through my journeys all this time, I thank you.

With this post, I now leave behind the doubts and failures brought by 2016, along with the victories and successes I gained. At the same time, I look forward to the changes that will be brought by 2017.

As for this blog, who knows? There’s so much to do rather than dwell in the past. Like, for example, a new book or anthology that needs filling up, or maybe a food park somewhere. Maybe a new blog…


Episode 92: #HeistClub: The Launch (Extro)


A few days have passed since “#HeistClub: The Launch” ended, but everything has yet to sink in. Even now, I’m lost for words as to how to process everything. But one thing is certain: I am proud to say I have published – and launched – my own crime novel.

Let me at least start with a show of gratitude. I owe the privilege of becoming a published author to the organizers and sponsors of #HeistClub, to my fellow authors, to those who bought our books, and to my friends and family who supported the event.

I’m happy to be able to work with so many talented and hardworking individuals. I owe them so much that even if I let out a torrent of “thank yous”, it would not be enough to repay what they’ve done for me. Even so, let it suffice that I am thankful for everyone who made this launch possible.

#HeistClub is my biggest break so far. I thought I found my calling when I took up crime writing.  It has always been my dream, after all, to become a novelist. I’ve always wanted to write something related to my previous profession, to write about society in a different, more creative point of view.

My crime story “Sampaguita” started merely as a story of revenge and vigilantism. It was through the workshop that I would eventually tap into my most necessary resources to make a coherent story, a good set of characters, and a world that has the potential to expand into its own series or two. Still, t took me a lot of discipline, advice, and morale boosting from everyone before I finished “Sampaguita”.

Looking back, though, I still have a lot to do before I could be fully proud of my work. I have yet to master the art of storytelling. I have yet to learn to market myself. I have yet to learn to make eye-catching covers and attention-grabbing blurbs. I have to make myself known to a bigger audience. And then there’s so much to do after getting published. Even so, I believe I’m on the right track.

This is why, again, I am thankful to be part of #HeistClub. I hope everyone would continue to guide and support me in my journey to become a great author.

Meanwhile, Unlimited Grub Grabs will return to its regular, food-chomping programming as soon as I get things in order. It’s tough when you have a lot on your plate (figuratively). Also, the second part of “Sampaguita” is coming soon.


“Sampaguita”, my #HeistClub novella, is available on Amazon Kindle and Buqo, and will be available for preorders soon.

Amazon Kindle:





Episode 91: Countdown to #HeistClub: The Launch

“#HeistClub: The Launch” is coming in a few more days, and we’re excited to be part of this literary venture.

Sixteen authors are launching their crime stories on that day. These have been published in three e-book bundles on the local online bookstore Buqo. Some of them are set to be sold as standalones on Buqo, Amazon, and on print.

Bringing crime fiction to the spotlight through #Heistclub will be a new milestone for the Philippine literary scene. This will open more opportunities for readers to enjoy a genre that hits close to home and opens our eyes to what’s happening around us.

Check out the #HeistClub trailer below:

Those interested in finding out more about these stories are invited to join the launch on June 25, 2016, 6:00 p.pm, at Enderun’s The Study on the fourth floor of The Podium, Ortigas Center. “#HeistClub: The Launch” is sponsored by the following: Bronze Age Media, Inc., Buqo, The Study by Enderun, GPICKS, Kwisshy’s Cupcake Haven Talecraft Jmd Copy and Print Shop Unlimited Grub Grabs Mercy M. Soriano

For more information, visit  the event page and like the #HeistClub Facebook fan page.

For more information, visit the event page and like the #HeistClub Facebook fan page.

Episode 90: #HeistClub: The Launch

Let’s write Crime! Filipino writers were challenged to write tales of dark pathways and mysterious psyches, misdemeanor and trouble, dread and doubt.

#HeistClub was an online workshop facilitated by Mina V. Esguerra in the last quarter of 2015. The class was organized by Bronze Age Media and sponsored by Buqo and Enderun’s The Study.

Each crime story had to be set in the Philippines, and it had to be written in English.  Each story should pave the way for a series, so it should be Case #1, with the next cases in the works for subsequent release. A foreign language needed to be incorporated into the story,  with our sponsor,  Enderun providing the writers free translation services.

The following mentors gave invaluable tips and lessons to the writers during the course of the workshop: Jennifer Hillier, F.H. Batacan, R.J. Taduran, Kevin Uy, Juliet Grames, and Andrea Pasion-Flores.

In the end, sixteen crime stories were produced.  They were released in three ebook bundles on the Buqo application early this year. The bundle names are: What We Fear, Why We Run, and What We Hide.

#HeistClub: Why We Run

  • Bayawak’s Trail by Justine Camacho-Tajonera
  • The Fraud Hunter Book 1: Chasing an ATM Schemer by Racquel Sarah A. Castro
  • The Retreat by Yeyet Soriano
  • Come With Me by Michael Recto
  • Inertia by Sette Luis

#HeistClub: What We Fear

  • Till Death Do Us Apart by Irene Recio
  • Soul Makers by Jee Ann Guibone
  • Classified by Georgette S. Gonzales
  • High Stakes by Ana Valenzuela
  • Dressed to Kill by Cassandra Javier

#HeistClub: What We Hide

  • Snakehead by Bianca Mori
  • Sampaguita by Mark Manalang
  • Let’s Play Murder by Farrah F. Polestico
  • Corpus Delicti by Porcupine Strongwill
  • The Flame Squad: Sly Prince by Jessica E. Larsen
  • The Gung Ho Lady by Arlene Manocot

On June 25, 2016, at 6:00 to 9:00 PM at Enderun’s The Study, located at 4thFloor, Podium, Ortigas Center, the sixteen stories will be officially launched to the public.  From the time they were released in their ebook bundles, some of the authors have refined, updated and enhanced their respective stories for release as stand-alone novels/novellas in multiple platforms: Buqo, Kindle, Smashwords, and print.

Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1623193478001367/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/heistclubthelaunch/


Aikyatchi: #HeistClub

“We challenged Filipino writers to tell us tales of crime and mischief, fear and suspicion, dark alleys and darker souls. Welcome to #HeistClub.”

Mystery and crime lurk anew from the dark corners of the Filipino ebook community with today’s release of the #HeistClub bundles.

#HeistClub is an online writing workshop facilitated by Mina V. Esguerra and Bronze Age Media, Inc. last August. Writers were encouraged to create crime and mystery stories primarily set in the Philippines, all of which have the potential to become series in their own right. The result: the works of sixteen authors with stories ranging from fraud and unique modus operandi, to plain old revenge.

My second story, “Sampaguita”, is part of the “What We Hide” bundle. To be concise, this is about a Japanese expat, driven by remorse over the apathy towards Manila’s crime problem, who prepares to exact revenge on a wanted criminal.

The #HeistClub bundles are available at the Buqo Bookstore. You may buy them through the Buqo App on your smartphones, or through these links:

What We Fear:

What We Hide:

Why We Run:

Episode 82: Novelist Mode

For those who are following my adventures, I apologize for the long drought of posts here. I’m still working on writing crime novels at the moment, which explains why I haven’t been writing about food so much.
Stay with me for a while, though, as I tell you why. These past few months have been exciting.

As a recap, I joined the #JustWritePH workshop last July, and finished my first novel, “The Seven-Day Detective”, about a month later. The story goes as follows:

“Insp. Gene Bello is no stranger to rape cases, or speedy investigations. As a cadet, he was known as ‘The Seven-Day Detective’, having solved a serial rape incident in seven days. So when an NBI official asked him to handle a similar case, he was ready to take on the job… or so he thought. The case: a serial rapist targeting call center agents from Bonifacio Global City.
Luck is on Gene’s side, though. Four PUV drivers plying the EDSA-BGC routes have seen and interacted with the fifth victim. Each of them knew her well. Each of them, perhaps all of them, may hold the key to stop the next attack and find the suspect before he strikes again. But they have to hurry… All they have is seven days.”

Soon after that, I finished writing for Heist Club, a crime fiction class sponsored by Bronze Age Media, The Study by Enderun, and Buqo. Heist Club aims to open up the Filipino crime genre to a bigger audience, and entice more local authors to write crime stories.  This workshop ran from October 1 to November 7.
Participants were required to write a crime story worth 5,000 words or more in English, with a few conversations in foreign languages. The theme of the class is “Case Number 1”, which means it has the potential of becoming a series.

My story, essentially my second crime novel, is titled “Sampaguita”. The blurb I submitted to Heist Club says:
“Japanese expat and tycoon Keniichi Daimon has conflicting emotions for his second home, Manila. Despite Manila’s subtle beauty and charm, the corruption seeping deeply in the city has left him nearly apathetic of its future. But when his indifference leads to the death of a young flower vendor and his fiancée, his jaded view of Manila is shattered.
Keniichi, now driven by remorse, finds himself dragged into a world where the innocent are broken for the pleasures of the privileged and sinister few. Ignored by the police and spurned by the apathy of the people around him – the same apathy he once showed – he realizes the only way to make amends and seek justice is to take matters into his own hands.”

I also joined NaNoWriMo 2015, during which I rewrote and improved “The Seven-Day Detective”. Once I have it beta-read, re-edited, and polished, I intend to relaunch it, not only along with the Just Write PH #ForJustice bundle, but as a solo book. I intend to rewrite “Sampaguita” and do the same. But I’m thinking too way ahead and showing off my cards too much, huh?

Just because I’ve been busy writing about crime doesn’t mean I’ve shelved my food writing. In fact, you may want to visit my Instagram and Facebook page and see what I‘ve been up to and what I’ve been eating lately.
I mean, there are a lot of new places to dine that opened recently, and to say they were well-received and sought-after is an understatement, but I decided to lie low a bit, eat discreetly, and write about how good these places are when the hype around them dies down. (Also, once I have the budget to eat out.)

Stay tuned


Twitter: @mtjmanalang